How Finland gets from A to B
MaaS, ITS, AI: just a small sample of the jargon in which new mobility specialists are fluent but – and this is crucial – its users are not. Nor should they be, argues Pekka Möttö, CEO of Tuup: “What we do is important. It touches the core of everyday life: how to get from A to B”.
Mr. Möttö was one of the speakers at Intelligent Vehicle and Mobility Solutions from Finland on Wednesday. The event at the London residence of the Finnish ambassador, organised by Finnish trade agency Finpro and Frost & Sullivan, traditionally precedes the annual F&S Mobility conference, which takes place this Thursday (check here tomorrow for a report). The room was filled to capacity, because the Finns excel at intelligent mobility. How? As Mr. Möttö suggests, by translating their advanced technical know-how into new and exciting practical solutions that get more and more people from A to B – even non-specialists, and even non-Finns.
Opportunity and demand
Opening the event, Shwetha Surender (New Mobility team leader at F&S) sketched the trends that are converging to transform traditional car ownership into Mobility as a Service (MaaS): “Half of the world's population currently live in cities; by 2050, that will be 70% - creating both an opportunity and the demand for innovative mobility. Younger generations are undergoing a mindshift, turning from ownership to usage. And with the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and 4G and 5G networks, technology is getting ready for on-demand mobility services”.
Iain Macbeth (Automotive & Intelligent Mobility team leader at Transport for London's Innovation Directorate) focused on the challenges that big cities like London face – and that TfL is determined to meet: “Every day, three million people take the Tube, six million use our buses and 26 million people use roads – TfL also manages the London road network; we operate 7,500 traffic lights, for instance”. With its population forecast to grow from 8.7 million today to 10 million by 2030, fighting traffic congestion and pollution is a huge task, but an indispensible one. “46% of trips in London are currently undertaken by public or sustainable transport. Our new mobility plan, launched by our mayor Sadiq Khan, aims to increase that to 80% by 2040”. Under the provisions of the plan, London will gradually ban the scourge of air pollution: “By 2023, all taxis must be emission-free, the same for buses by 2027. By 2030 all vehicles on sale in London must be emission-free, and ten years later, all vehicles effectively running in the city. Air quality is hugely important to our mayor, and not just because he has asthma himself”.
Edwin Colella (VP Customer Projects at Octo Telematics and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Omoove) explained the motivation of Octo, the world-leading provider of insurance telematics, to start up Omoove, offering shared mobility technology: “Traditionally, you have one insurance policy that covers one car with one driver. But MaaS enables mobility users to apply a wide variety of technical solutions to their various mobility needs. In short: the model is changing from one-to-one towards many-to-many”. Omoove will very shortly launch a product that turns option into an opportunity – for both individual users and for fleets. Watch this space!
“Who has never had a Nokia phone”, asked Thierry E. Klein (Head of Innovation Management for Vertical Industries at Nokia). Nobody in the room raised their arm. The former icon of early mobile telephony is making phones again, but it has resolutely reoriented itself towards infrastructure. In a way, Nokia still wants to make connections – in this case, between cars rather than people. “We are used to managing devices, and connected cars are just another type of device”, said Klein. Establishing that connection is more of an innovation than it sounds: “OEMs never had to talk to each other. All they shared was the road. But connected cars will benefit from shared platforms”. Which is why Nokia was one of the founders of the 5G Automotive Association, bringing telecommunications and automotive companies to do just that. Starting with 8 companies last September, the 5GAA already counts around 50 members. “One of the challenges will be how to manage the different lifecycles of the technologies: for cars, it's up to 10 years, while the telecoms equipment we would be using in them have cycles of 18, 12 or even 6 months”.
Matti Räsänen (VP Sales & Marketing at Valmet Automotive) highlighted both his company's half-century of experience in automotive manufacturing, engineering and converting, and its future-oriented course. “In fact, our activities doubled over the past year. We currently employ 4,300 people worldwide, by the end of the year we should be at 5,000”.
A crucial element in that growth spurt: Valmet's focus on EV batteries and powertrains, and its cooperation with CATL, China's fastest-growing battery maker. Valmet's capacity to tailor-make battery packs will become increasingly crucial, Räsänen says: “The intelligent vehicles of tomorrow will need more of our battery packs, and assorted services”.
Next was Pekka Möttö, CEO of Tuup, which is making waves in Finland with Kyyti, an on-demand ride service app that offers “real-time, door-to-door, 24/7 shared-taxi rides. The product will soon be on offer in North America and in other places in Europe. “We're still not sure which name we will have for it abroad. Kyyti – which means 'ride' in Finnish – is what all experts agree that we shouldn't use. So maybe that is what we should call it after all (laughs)”.
One of the slides in Vesa Kiviranta's presentation showed a computer tablet on wheels. “When people tell us what they want in a car, we're no longer hearing about horse power, but computing power”, said the VP of Automotive Solutions at Symbio. His company focuses on in-vehicle infotainment, telematics services, assisted driving and connectivity. For non-specialists, he had the example of a recent project for Volvo, showing what all this could mean. “With Volvo Concierge Service, we trialed a system that can deliver food to the trunk of your car while parked, or get your empty fuel tank refilled, or even have the car serviced while you are not using it”. Just some of the applications that could make life easier for the driver.
The last speaker, Andreas Strandman (Director Marketing & Communication at Siiki Solutions), made a bold promise: “We are about to put an end to human error”. Turns out he was only speaking about cars, but still. “Here in London, where I lived for a while, cars stop when a pedestrian approaches a zebra crossing. In Finland, where I live now with two young daughters, cars rush by. Is that difference due to culture, legislation or something else?” The answer, in the end, is irrelevant, because Siiki is working towards a future where digital instrument clusters, user interfaces and solutions for assisted and autonomous mobility will make driving a more relaxed and safe experience – not to mention also more efficient and cost-effective.
Finland, as it turns out, will not only show the world how to get from A to B, but also when and where to stop in between for crossing pedestrians.